How to learn a Language

By: Darragh Winkelman

With May exams quickly approaching even those IB students in an SL language are going to be expected to produce extended, coherent compositions in a language that is not their own. This can seem daunting – but it isn’t. In this article I will present several simple concepts which, when applied to language acquisition, make grasping a foreign language much easier.

Concept 1: Connections

This step will be much easier for students of languages related to English (in the case of our school French and Spanish). By making connections I don’t just mean finding what is obviously similar (like the French word ‘désirable’ and its English equivalent ‘desirable’). For students of French and Spanish it is important that we understand that the connection between French, Spanish and English is much more profound than we might have been led to think. In these three languages there is a consistent grammatical logic that is adhered to. Even in words that might seem completely different to us there are connections to be found. These include both semantic and grammatical connections.

A good example is the relation between the English word ‘stand’ and the French word ‘être’ (‘to be’). These two words might not seem to have anything to do with each other – but they come from the same ancestral word.

First let’s look at the two words for similarities:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 5.05.25 PM

What I’ve circled might not seem like much, but if we look at the ancestries of these two words the similarity becomes clearer:

Modern English/French Middle English/French Proto-Germanic/Latin Proto-Indo European
Stand Standan Standaną Steh-
Être Ester Stare Steh-


The key to deciphering why these two words are really the same word that has evolved into two variations lies in just two consonants – ‘s’ and ‘t’. Through this, ‘être’ loses much of its foreignness. Just as studying evolution helps students of biology better understand why creatures function the way they do, and why they have taken the forms they have, studying how languages have evolved allows their modern forms to be demystified. This may seem convoluted and seem to cause more confusion than simplification – and at first it might. But when connections like these can be made, remembering words becomes much easier over time. The word ‘être’ has not appeared foreign to me for a long time not because I was in French immersion but because I followed this step. Whenever I see ‘être’ now, I no longer see it as something completely outside of my own linguistic reality.

Concept 2: The language of grammar

Learning a new language is greatly facilitated if you know the words that are used to describe different aspects of language. You must know, for example, what a verb is. But the language of grammar is much more complex than that. You have to know what a ‘clause’ is. Words like tense, aspect, person, number, mood are examples of basic concepts. It would be even better to go into greater detail: words like subjunctive, optative, indicative, imperative, realis mood, irrealis mood, dative, accusative etc. would render language learning even easier. The reason for this can be found in how we use language itself.

Concept 3: Irregularities aren’t Irregularities

Especially for students of French and Spanish, irregularities in verb conjugation, assigning of grammatical gender etc. probably have posed particularly cumbersome difficulties. But what is important is to understand that most things we perceive as irregularities really aren’t random. Aside from a very small number of irregularities all the idiosyncratic elements we encounter in language can be explained in a logical way. If we take the Spanish verb ir and the French verb aller, both of which mean to go, we can quickly see why these verbs appear irregular.

Looking at the conjugation tables:

French aller Spanish ir English to go
je vais voy I go
tu vas vas Thou goest
il va va He goes
nous allons vamos We go
vous allez vais You go
ils vont van They go


There is a reason the present tense forms of the Spanish and French verbs seem to have nothing to do with their corresponding infinitive. The French verb is a convergence of three separate verbs which in Latin had similar meanings which have now been blended. The infinitive aller comes from Latin ambulare (to walk – think ‘ambulatory’), the forms starting with v- come from vadare (to go, walk). For those who are in French the future tense root ir- comes from the Latin verb ire – the original verb for to go. The Spanish verb is also a convergence of three separate verbs: the infinitive from Latin ire, the v- forms also from vadare and the irregular preterite forms starting with f- coming from the Latin past tense of the copula (i.e. the verb corresponding to to be).

Again this process might seem tedious – but this is the case with any learning process. If you make a habit of acquiring deeper knowledge of a word it will become an easier and faster process. Because you will understand on a deeper level why aller in French is formed in the way it is, it will be much harder to forget. This technique is applicable to learners of Mandarin and Japanese, in that knowing the origin of a character with make it easier to remember its meaning.

If we take, for example, the Chinese character signifying horse: 馬

This character isn’t the result of a random number of strokes: it, like thousands of Chinese characters, was constructed specifically to represent the concept it signifies. We can look at the evolution of characters:

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 5.06.13 PM

This basic character evolved from a drawing of exactly what it means: a horse. This component was then used with other radicals to create other characters with a similar sound. This should facilitate the memorization of new characters: the strokes mean something more, just as the idiosyncrasies in the Spanish and French verbs have gained new meaning with a more in-depth study.

Concept 4: Practice is life

Practice is ultimately the only way to ensure proficiency. Extensive reading and writing is indispensable. This doesn’t just mean reading the workbooks that have been distributed in class. To get a good mark you need to read literature or academic texts, because it is in these that the authors genuinely try to make art out of language. The texts that appear in high school textbooks or IB textbooks are often contrived, and designed to specific learning needs. This is not conducive to improvement, because they are either deliberately simplified or rendered incomprehensible in order to emphasize certain grammatical features – they are not authentic. You need to dive into advanced texts and try your best to understand them. If you can imitate even slightly the exquisite prolixity of Foucault in French or the impeccable technique of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Spanish this will be the greatest guarantor of a 7, not perfunctorily reading about somebody’s day at school or through remembering pointless vocabulary like the words for chicken, fork, or mansion. This last concept is by far the most important and also the simplest. By applying the principles of these four concepts a 7 should be easily within reach for HL’s and especially SL’s.

Basketball Season Recap!

By: Richards Zhang


The reigning Richmond City Champs, Richmond Colts strived to continue to their impressive play from last year into this year. With the departure of last year’s grade 10 standout Jonathan Mikhlin who led the team in points, the Colts had much to prove.

The Richmond Colts started the regular season off strong beating a solid Cambie team 69-63. The team featured a high intensity four quarters of basketball and Richmond eventually taking control in the fourth, led by grade 11, Philip Gundic who ended with a game high 24 points. Following the win over Cambie, the Colts faced two very experienced teams, McMath and RC Palmer. Poor shooting and lack of experience was key factors in the McMath and RC Palmer games as they failed to come up with a victory.

As the season weighed on, upcoming star Lyon Laddaran was asked about the season after the rough start, “There were many questions in the beginning of the season, ‘Are we capable of winning without Jonathan? Who will lead to the team? How will we compare with the rest of the league without Jonathan?’ Although it is too early to answer these questions, we seem to be facing many doubters in the league. With the team composing mostly of grade 11’s, we will need a little more time building our chemistry, getting use to senior basketball and learning to adjust to the new style of play. We look to prove the doubters wrong and end with a solid record.”

The Colts eventually ended their regular season placing sixth in the league with a solid 5-5 record. The Colts were led by upcoming grade 11 star, Philip Gundic who averaged a team and league high 26.6 points and leading the Colts in three other categories( FT made, FT %, Asst). To top off his stellar season, Philip Gundic was awarded 2nd team all star of the league.

The Richmond Colts ran in trouble in the first round, playing an impressive 7-3 McNair team. The Colts came up short in the regular season against McNair and they look to seek vengeance and prove the doubters wrong. The Colts looked strong starting off the game. It seemed the game was in the Colts grasp, trailing by less than ten points going into the half. A late game push and poor shooting from the Colts all contributed to a disappointing loss for the Colts, losing 93-55. The Colts would eventually lose the remainder of the games, failing to make it into the Lower Mainland tournament.

In the beginning of the season, coach Mark Twyford explained their goals of the season; to win the Richmond Banner and to grow as individuals. Although the Colts did not make it to the finals, the growth of the players were evident.   “This is all a learning experience. Having already won three banners in the past, we have high expectations for every year. Although we didn’t make it to the finals this year, we will learn from this year and hopefully make it into the finals next year,” grade 11, Lyon Laddaran explained. Next year’s Senior Basketball team of Richmond High will look extremely strong as both the grade 10’s and grade 11’s have seen success before, winning Richmond and VnD banners in the past.

Stuco Events!

By: Jessica Jiang

Colt Idol


Richmond High’s Student Council put on their annual Colt Idol at the end of January. Colt Idol is a singing competition where people sing their hearts out in front of live audiences to showcase their talent. Personally, I believe that putting on shows like this promotes unity within our school community as people from different grades and groups can get together to witness some live-action art before their very eyes. Singing is another art that cannot be viewed, but when harmonies and melodies are heard they bring joy and warmth to whoever is listening, and makes everyone happy as the student body of RHS can show support together! Our Colt Idol consisted of a semi-final and finale show, where singers got to showcase their passion for singing and talent for performing. Whoever advanced was picked by the judges for the semi-finals and every student who came to the finals got to submit a student vote for their singer of choice. We had beautiful renditions of many popular songs, and they were all unique in their own way.

Congratulations to Ralph Hao and best to luck of Richcity Idol! Student Council would like to say thank you to everyone else to came out to compete and keep on singing, as well as thank you for the support from teacher judges and students who made this event possible.


Valentines Day


Richmond Secondary School’s very own Student Council spread love this February 12 by selling and delivering rose grams and crush cans to its student body! If you wanted to buy a crush can for your friends or lover as a way of saying “I have a CRUSH on you”, you could buy them at a very low price and get them personally delivered! Roses, the more romantic and traditional way of saying “I like/love you”, was also popular and was received with happiness from many. Delivering them during their 1-3 (second block) classes, it was so wonderful to see the joy light up their faces as they received a token of appreciation from someone they cared about. Although it wasn’t exactly Valentine’s Day, there was already plenty of love to go around.

A huge thank you to Student Council members, grade reps, and executives who helped out with tagging, and delivering! Without you, this wouldn’t have been possible.



TABLE 38:  

Early February, Richmond Secondary School’s Student Council hosted and put on our very own TABLE 38. The TABLE 38 is a large event where Student Council members from other schools as well as superintendents from the SD38 came out to talk about issues and topics that will better the school community. Each school hosts a TABLE 38, and it was our time to shine. Our theme was “Pep Rally”, and we talked about how to increase spirit in our schools. What’s more, at TABLE 38 there are usually games, free food and prizes to be won! As long as you came out to show your support, the takeaway was that you had fun, but at the same time learned how to make your own Student Council better. TABLE 38 promotes communication and unity, as people from different schools can all come together and make new friends, also helping each other reach their full potentials. In addition, the superintendents as well as respected professionals from community centres and such came to share their opinion, giving us valuable insight and showing us how to be valuable leaders in our school community.

Mardi Gras

Written By: Tegan Syho

On February 18th the sound of festive music reverberated across the walls of the halls. It started with the marching band storming into the lounge.

Members from all bands took their place amongst  the army of musicians. Following them was the jazz band who had a stellar display of talent. The finale was led by the acoustic guitar group which had an excellent performance.


As the music played, delicious crepes (similar to pancakes) were being sold left and right. Students and staff alike wore colourful masks and came out to get a crepe and enjoy the performances by our school bands. The festive spirits lit up the school and brought another great day to be a part of Richmond Secondary!

This great party was in celebration of Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’, a grand festival that originated from a blend of  French, African and American cultures, the biggest party of which takes place in New Orleans!


Alice in Wonderland

By: Claire Zhao


In the last week of February and the first week of March, the RHS Mainstage theatre group put on the annual school play-one of the biggest performances in RHS. This year, the group performed the classic Alice in Wonderland story.

For those who are not too familiar with the story, Alice in Wonderland is a fantastical tale with magical and surreal scenes such as a little girl growing and shrinking to impossible sizes, falling down rabbit holes, and conversing with wacky anthropomorphic animals. Such scenes may seem impossible to portray in a live theatre production, but the Mainstage group defied the odds, effectively recreating them with amazing teamwork, clever staging, and creative use of props.

Many of our favorite characters were brought to life by the talented actors from cute little Alice to the bad-tempered Red Queen to the funny Humpty Dumpty. Of course, like always, the Mainstage Crew added their own spin to the classic tale. For those who have watched the play, one of the most memorable acts would probably be the Wonderland talent show, ‘Wonderland’s Got Talent’. This was the first time in many years that the Mainstage theatre group decided to include live singing in their play. The audience was delighted to see lovable characters like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and the Mock Turtle rap and sing catchy songs, many of which written by our own talented RHS students!

And here’s another Easter egg: Did you know that Alice was portrayed by two different actors? Well, it’s true! Maisha Haque and Jiana Gonzales alternated being Alice on different nights!

So all in all, the play was a huge success just as in past years. This is really no surprise, considering the Mainstage crew always spends months preparing for the big show. RHS thanks the Mainstage actors, the crew, and their dedicated teachers, Ms Barker and Ms Ann, for yet another brilliant play!

And if you enjoyed the play and love to perform, consider joining the Mainstage family!